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Rider Education Article

Motorcycle Accidents and the Military
Submitted by: Joe and Gracie Mazza

Exactly one year ago I wrote an article for the Insight E-Newsletter entitled "Motorcycle Safety Remains Top Priority for Defense Leaders". In it I discussed statements made by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. of the American Forces Press Service and DOD'S Director of Operational Readiness and Safety, Joseph Angello. Their emphasis was directed toward motorcycle safety for those still serving. Through their efforts they were hoping to see a decrease in the number of fatalities associated with this enjoyable yet dangerous hobby. As stated by a recent Armed Forces Surveillance Center study, "between 1999 and 2012, military service members were increasingly dying in motorcycle accidents, and the rate is going up".

Outside of war, motor vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death among military service members, and motorcycle accidents make up a large proportion of those fatalities. Just as with civilians, the number of motor-vehicle-accident deaths as a whole has declined substantially among service members since about 2005. Unfortunately, motorcycle-related-fatalities have been skyrocketing.

The study included all who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or reserves at any time between Jan. 1,1999 and Dec. 31, 2012. Over that 14-year period, slightly more than 25% of all motor-vehicle-accident deaths involved motorcycles. By 2012, fatal traffic accidents had dropped by nearly 58% from their 2005 peak. Unfortunately, the number of fatal motorcycle wrecks began to rise dramatically in 2010, and they now make up a growing proportion of traffic fatalities among service members. In 2012, nearly as many active-component service members died in motorcycle accidents as in all other motor vehicle accidents combined.

It's apparently not lack of training. Since 2009, the Defense Department has required all members of the Armed Services who intend to purchase motorcycles to enroll in, and attend, motorcycle safety classes. The service members most likely to be killed in motorcycle accidents were Marines, according to the AFHSC study. The largest numbers were among active-component, male troops between 20 and 24 years old. The study's authors speculate that troops in this age group, many of whom have served in action abroad, are the least able to appreciate their own vulnerability.

One such fatality occurred Sat. Feb. 8 2014 just south of Crestview, Florida on Route 85. An article in the Northwest Florida Daily News stated "the 28-year-old motorcyclist killed Saturday afternoon in a wreck south of Crestview, Florida, was a soldier with the 7thSpecial Forces Group (Airborne). Staff Sgt. Andrew Koerner died after his motorcycle crashed into a pickup truck on State Road 85. A 73 year old woman from Crestview, who was in the truck, was also killed.

A native of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Koerner joined the Army in July 2008. He attended basic and advanced training at Fort Benning, Georgia, before graduating as an infantryman. Koerner was assigned to the 31st Infantry, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division when he first deployed to Iraq in 2009 for almost a year. After his deployment, he volunteered for the Special Forces, earning his Green Beret and joining the 7th Group in August, 2012. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion. His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Parachute Badge.

Koerner was the second local service member killed while riding a motorcycle in less than a week. Senior Airman, Ignacio Arostegui, stationed at Elgin Air Force Base, died Feb.3rd after he crashed his motorcycle into the back of a pickup truck on U.S. Highway 98 in Destin, Florida.

In Saturday's wreck, Koerner's motorcycle collided with the passenger side of the pickup truck as it was trying to cross State Road 85 from Lake Silver Road to Houston Lane, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Koerner died at the scene. He was wearing a helmet. The passenger in the truck, 73 year old Virginia Settles, died later at the hospital in Pensacola, Fla.

I have the utmost respect for our military men and women. Given the increase year by year of motorcycle deaths, it is obvious everything must be done to help inform and protect our warriors from these terrible occurrences. Perhaps greater efforts may be required to help young military members understand the forces involved in a motorcycle accident. They might also benefit from practical training on safe riding techniques, the importance of protective clothing and helmets, and other steps they can take to keep themselves safe.

 

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